16 December 2015

One Year In, Same Old Politics

Last Monday's meeting of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation was the final one of 2015 and marked the one year anniversary of this group of elected Commissioners. The evening started well with a staff update on the Urban Forest Strategy. This was a good news story; after several years of our canopy declining, the City and Park Board are working to increase it on both private and public lands. Other business included a new lease for the Fish House Restaurant in Stanley Park, a report on planting more Ornamental Cherry trees, and a special event in the Olympic Village neighbourhood.

With the business of the Park Board Committee over, the Board meeting began with elections for Chair and Vice Chair of the Board as well as the same for the Committee. Once again the NPA used their majority to take all 4 positions, simply shuffling the deck.

There were two motions concerning refugees presented. My motion to work in partnership with the City, Community Centre Associations, and Immigrant Services to support refugees passed unanimously. This motion looks to support all refugees over the long term. 

A second motion presented by Vision Commissioner Catherine Evans asked staff to look into using unused caretaker cottages in our parks for temporary use for Syrian refugees arriving imminently. I had asked staff before the meeting if this was possible and they suggested that 3 or 4 of the unused cottages could be used with some additional work. Commissioner Evan's motion would have directed staff to prepare a brief for us on the costs and time-line needed to prepare them and a decision could then be made quickly. 

Instead of welcoming this innovative and generous idea, the NPA used their majority to block it by referring it to staff (a strange move as the motion was to have staff look into it), as they believed this measure was already included in my previous motion. This is not true as my motion was looking at long term planning and a report back is not expected until the spring. By that time the use of the cottages will be unnecessary as hopefully by then the refugees will have found permanent accommodations. By referring the motion they have essentially killed the idea.

It is unfortunate that the NPA blocked Commissioner Evans motion for short term support for soon to arrive Syrian refugees. Commissioner Wiebe and I joined with Evans to support her motion as we believe there are many ways we can support our new Canadians. At this time when we wish peace and goodwill to all, I found it sad that not everyone agreed.

Partisan politics seem to still be at the forefront of civic affairs. There was some hope that after last year's election a new way to work could be established. I still have hope. Being Green means expecting the best, but being prepared to challenge when anything less is presented.

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